News / Middle East

Beleaguered Iraqi Christians Cancel Christmas Celebrations Across Iraq

Iraqi police guard the entrance to a Church in Baghdad, Iraq, Dec 25, 2009 (File Photo)
Iraqi police guard the entrance to a Church in Baghdad, Iraq, Dec 25, 2009 (File Photo)

Multimedia

Audio
Edward Yeranian

With al-Qaida threatening more attacks against Iraq's beleaguered Christian community, Christian leaders in three unsettled regions of the country are calling off Christmas celebrations this year.

Life for Christians across Iraq has been increasingly treacherous in recent months, and many fear for their lives and futures following a brutal and bloody hostage-taking that left nearly 70 people dead last month at Baghdad's Sayidet al Najat Church.

Under threat, and in mourning for recent attacks against their community, Iraqi Christian leaders have decided to cancel most evening worship services and forgo other festivities for Christmas.

Church leaders in the northern towns of Kirkuk and Mosul, as well as the southern port city of Basra, are reported to be canceling the traditional Christmas evening mass and have asked parishioners not to put up decorations.

Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako in Kirkuk said church leaders across the country - not just in Kirkuk, Mosul and Basra - made an official decision recently to forgo celebrations.

"This decision was taken by all the bishops in Iraq, not only in Kirkuk, two weeks ago, because after the attack on the (Sayidat al Najat) church in Baghdad many families left the capital, and also (in) Mosul, Christians have been martyred. So, we made a statement that we canceled all the celebrations, except the masses, in the church and that prayer should be for peace and stability in Iraq."

Archbishop Sako added that his church and others received warning letters from al-Qaida, which were published on the terrorist group's website.

"I did not make any statement about al-Qaida, really, but we got a letter (which) was published on the website of al-Qaida, asking us to be wise and not to deal with the Americans, and also to ask for the release of two ladies in Egypt," said Sako. "They were Copts and they became Muslim. (But) we do not have any relations with Egypt. The third thing was not to defend (former Deputy Prime Minister) Tarek Aziz."

Muslim extremists in Egypt say the Church has detained two women for allegedly converting to Islam. The Church denies the allegations, but extremists in Iraq have embraced the story.

The Archbishop noted that another important reason for canceling Christmas evening mass is the fragile security situation in many parts of Iraq.

"You know, the security is still fragile, therefore we do not have the right to expose the lives of our faithful to a risk," said Sako. "For that, we are celebrating only the masses during the day. During the night (it is) impossible, because we have no guarantee you know. Who can protect Christians? Maybe inside the churches the police are protecting, but when (people) are leaving the church to their houses during the night it is really dangerous. But not only in Kirkuk, but in Baghdad, in Mosul, and in Basra. Only in Kurdistan is security good, (so) there we will be celebrating mass at night."

Many Christian families have fled parts of Baghdad and other dangerous areas of the country for the safety of Iraqi Kurdistan in recent weeks.  

The Archbishop, who is also the Chaldean archbishop of Suleimaniyah, indicated that his church has 112 refugee families that have fled from Baghdad, including 30 families who have actually taken refuge inside his church.

NEW: Follow our Middle East stories on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs